Saturday, September 22, 2012

From Forestland to Grassland

Public forest land in many parts of the country is actually grassland, with very little forest trees standing, as a result of frequent and regular raid of trees by many people, of their illegal logging, or deliberate burning of grasses and trees then use the area for vegetable plantation or terraces.

Photos below are the mountains in Bugallon, Labrador, other neighboring towns of Pangasinan. I took these photos last August 31, 2012.

The government likes to borrow a lot of money from the mUltilaterals and some bilateral bodies -- the WB, UN, OECF, JICA, USAID, ... -- for various reforestation programs since the 80s or perhaps since the 70s. The result is almost always the same for many areas nationwide -- after money has been collected, taking care of the newly planted seedlings does not seem to happen. These seedlings and young trees can be killed by weeds and vines, by grassfire and/or lack of water; or by competing trees that are naturally regenerating by themselves and hence, deprive the younger ones with sunlight.

In my observation of denuded mountains, if people and/or the government want to see a thickly forested land someday, among the first things they should do is NOT plant trees but rather. Instead, they should free up the naturally regenerating trees from competition by huge and tall grasses, vines that choke the trees' trunk and branches.  Assisted natural regeneration (ANR) is seldom or hardly applied as contractors, including NGOs and rural cooperatives that were engaged by the DENR, want bigger budget per hectare. ANR means lesser budget per hectare.

The private farm that I help manage in Bugallon, a big portion of it is claimed by the DENR regional office as being "public forest land", photos below. Individuals and rice farmers' cooperative members started planting here. Many of them use madre de cacao or "kakawate" as planting materials. They were told to plant at 4x5 meters spacing, sometimes 2x3 meters.

The DENR and local government units (LGUs) are often so concerned with "tree planting, tree planting,... They often do not put enough resources and manpower at watching and protecting the naturally-regenerating  trees from being cut and stolen. Lower right photo, a man carrying an illegally cut or stolen tree from the public forest land. 

Will continue later...

Friday, September 07, 2012

Trees in the Farm, part 2

I visited the farm last week, August 31, 2012. I think the "representative" photo of the farm will be this -- a treehouse perched on a big and live mahogany tree, is itself surrounded by many big trees, and a small rice field in the front.

This is part of the "public road" passing by our farm. That road going up is generally abused with deforestation and various forms of illegal logging by the local folks themselves who live in the barrio. Only the portion in our farm that the trees are allowed to grow tall and big. The thieves respect the "private property" aspect, so long as there are people watching the property regularly.

Another view of my treehouse, the rice field, and many trees around it.

The trees viewed from a hill near our "dikit-dikit na manggahan". If our caretakers do not visit the farm daily, plus our dogs who accompany them and stay in my treehouse at night, thieves and illegal loggers will simply chop these trees for their own interests.

Several panoramic view of the trees. 

This part is near the border with the "public forest land" with very little forest trees. 

Another side of the farm, not far from my treehouse. The young trees, they multiply like grasses once the mature and bigger ones have started bearing seeds. The seeds are spread anywhere the wind will blow them.  

More, more trees...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Farm Photos, June 2012

These photos I took in my last visit to the farm, June 28, 2012. It was cloudy that day, later heavy rains fell.

The rice plots in front of my treehouse on fallow. This area is surrounded by many trees, and a creek on one side.

These cows are not mine, they are owned by our caretaker Nong Endring. Upper photos are pictures of a one day old (!) baby cow with his mother. I think I took these photos last May. Below photos, one month old baby cow. These cows are Nong Endring's savings. In case of emergencies, he sells one, the mature ones. He used to have 5 or 6 cows, now he says he's old, he can only manage3 or 4 heads.

Among the trees surrounding the rice plots near my treehouse. See more photos of the trees in earlier blog post below. Also photos of my treehouse.

Stone terraces we built in this part were strong enough to withstand strong flash flood.

Nong Endring planted stringbeans or "sitaw", at the other side of the farm. Not wide, just enough for their consumption and some extra to sell, just to keep the area from being invaded by the grass. This area will be planted with rice soon. Stringbeans last only for a few weeks, at most two months I think.

A few banana plants not far from the stringbeans. We also have banana plants in other parts of the farm but our main problem are the bats and birds, they attack and eat the fruits even before the bananas would mature. We harvest very little there.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My Treehouse, May 2012

Some updated photos of my treehouse which we built sometime in late 2004 and finished in early 2005.

Here, 2005 (upper photo) vs. 2012. The structure is generally the same except for two differences, (a) now iron sheet roof, and (b) now bigger trees surrounding the treehouse.

The original, cogon roof vs. iron sheet. What damaged the cogon roof were first, rain water penetrating the lower layer since the trunk of the tree at the top gets bigger, allowing rainwater to seep in. And second, termites who climb up each day and each night. We remove them today, they're back tomorrow if not tonight.

See these fresh sprouting leaves right inside my treehouse. Since the tree is alive, small branches would sprout up especially during the rainy season.

Trusses (?) damaged as the tree's trunk gets bigger and taller.

The lower trunk is not rising much, more of getting bigger or fatter and wider,

Various poses over the past few years :-)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Rice Farms

Among the things that attract me to visit our farm in Pangasinan, which is generally far from Manila, is the sight seeing of many rice farms on the road. The rice plots below are not from our farm, but in the same barrio or village.

Newly uprooted young rice to be planted in well-spaced plots.

Rice field, a backyard piggery surrounded by rice plots, people planting rice.

A farmer showing the newly uprooted, bundled young rice. These will then be replanted in well-spaced plots.  Lower photo, threshing newly-harvested rice.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Trees in the Farm, Pangasinan

We started planting in the farm sometime in 1992, wow that was 20 years ago. Then we stopped planting after about six or seven years, I think. The older trees have been spreading their seeds that the young trees, tens of thousands of them, have grown like grasses. We have to pull or cut them out, otherwise our area would become so dark with so many trees, inviting plenty of mosquitoes and other pests.

Below, the trees near my treehouse, sometime in early 2009. These are mostly mahogany trees.

Trees as of December 2010, just a few meters from my treehouse.

As of February 2011. These are near our irrigation canal and water impounding structure.

Also as of February 2011. The road going to the public (no longer forested) land.

As of April 2011. In the above photos, taken from my old camera phone. Lower photos below taken from our digicam.

More photos from the digicam, also in April 2011.

Below, as of April 2012.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cecid Fly or "Kurikong Manga"

Our mango trees in the farm in Pangasinan -- please note that I only visit and help manage the farm, I don't own it -- are already huge mature. Not too many, maybe 200+ trees, but not all are bearing fruit regularly. Some are too close to mature forest trees and lose in the competition for sunlight, some are too close to each other, just 10-15 meters apart when they should be 20-25 meters apart, while others were felled by previous typhoons.

There are years that we harvest plenty enough, but in most years, the harvest is low for various reasons. The first major threat is pest infestation, second is forest and/or grass fire, usually coming from the public forest land or in neighboring private farms. Third is strong typhoon or continued rains even in supposedly dry months. We clean the mango trees and their surrounding as much as possible, especially when the fruits are getting bigger. To reduce or prevent pest infestation, control grassfire, and so on.

Some nice photos of mango trees when they are bearing plenty of flowers, later the young mango fruits, below.

This year, we harvested practically nothing, due to pest infestation called "kurikong manga" or cecid fly.

From some literatures:

(a) Kurikong Infests Mango Farms in Central Luzon

... a pest called cecid fly or gall midge.

This fly, known as ‘saksak walis’ or `kurikong’ in Luzon, `buti,’ or `armalite,’ ‘Gloria-gloria,’ or ‘Nora-nora’ in the Visayas and Mindanao, infests mango farms across the country.
The adult mango cecid fly resembles a mosquito and commonly lays its eggs on young mango leaves. The larvae which develop from eggs, mine the leaves producing dark green circular galls or swelling of tissues along the leaf blade. When the adults emerge from these galls, the leaves develop circular spots or holes which are sometimes mistaken as fungal infection. Under heavy infestations, the leaves wrinkle and turn yellow.
The infestation, however, affects the fruits more. When hit early, young mango fruits fall off from the tree. Fruits that remain produce circular brown scab-like spots randomly distributed on the fruit’s surface. Infested fruits retain these scabby lesions up to harvest time, thus affecting the quality and commanding a lower market price....

(b) Preventing “Kurikong” Problem In Mango

The damage inflicted by the Cecid fly on mango fruits, more popularly known as ‘Kurikong,’ is becoming an important concern of mango growers in many parts of the country.

Affected fruits are usually unmarketable because of the circular black or brown scabby lesions on the skin of the fruits. Both small and big fruits are affected. If the infestation is early, the affected young fruits usually drop from the tree.

On the other hand, affected fruits that reach maturity are unattractive and if they can be sold at all, they fetch a very low price. Some of the affected fruits also crack, according to the BPI experts.

The Cecid fly is a small mosquito-like insect that is active at night so spraying should be done at night or late in the afternoon. It lays its eggs on the developing fruits. If the mango tree is not in fruit, the Cecid fly lays its eggs on the leaves, causing circular protuberances on the surface.
The egg and larval stages are spent in the fruit while the pupal stage is spent in the ground, according to the BPI. The adult lives for only three to five days. Being small, the adults can be carried by wind. The pupa can be introduced in a new place when infested soil of planting materials is transported to that new place....

Bagging of mango fruits, ie, wrapping each and every fruit with paper, is a very labor intensive activity. There are huge costs involved, although the benefits are clear too, like the prevention of cecid fly attacks.

We should seriously consider this option next year.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Flooding and Erosion Control via Terraces

My article today in the online magazine,

With the on-going global cooling – not warming, it’s a scam – we should prepare for more rain and more flood, not more drought; we should prepare for rising rivers and lakes, not rising ocean.
The bad news is that heavy typhoons like Ondoy, Pedring and Sendong are just “intro”. There will be more heavy rains and typhoons to come, not just for the next few years but for decades. I have discussed in various articles here in the past why global cooling will last for many years and decades. It’s the Sun and galactic cosmic rays that mainly determine climate cycles of warming-cooling-warming-cooling in our planet.
One way to reduce – but never stop or control – flash flood during heavy rains, is to trap and impound those rainwater along with eroded organic matter in small tributaries like small creeks and waterways. No need for government to do this, only some hard work, imagination and big number of stones nearby. Below is a mini-dam we constructed near my treehouse in a farm in Bugallon, Pangasinan.
Top photos, left and right as of July and December 2010, respectively. Lower photos as of December 2011. The man standing is our caretaker, Mang Endring. He is old now, so we get some younger guys to help us collect those big number of stones in a nearby creek. So far, this mini-dam, no cement or steel added, only stones and organic matter, has survived several strong typhoons with heavy flash flood in 2010 and 2011. Meaning our design of this stone terrace was good and stable.
Below are what’s at the back of this mini-dam and stone terrace. Top photos as of July 2010, lower photos as of December 2011. Note the big depression at the back, that’s the old waterway that is getting higher as the eroded topsoil and other organic matter from higher grounds are slowly trapped and impounded. This depression becomes a big pool during heavy rains, so you can imagine the big volume of rainwater that is prevented from contributing to flash flood in the nearby creek.
We started building that mini-dam around March 2010, but I forgot to take photos that time. It was just an experimental mini-dam which I thought would just be about two feet high. Now it’s about six feet high and it’s getting wider and taller.
We started building terraces near my treehouse in early 2004. Below, top photos as of 2004, and lower photos as of mid-2010. The mahogany trees are getting larger and taller. These structures have controlled soil erosion and strong water run off during heavy rains in this part of the farm.

We also built stone terraces in other parts of the farm, photos below. The principle is simple. Control or at least reduce soil erosion and flash flooding in sloping land by building stone terraces that will trap and impound temporarily strong water run off. The dried or new leaves and branches that are scattered are gathered and deposited at the back of those stone terraces. These organic matters later decompose and become rich and soft soil
The process should be endless as the trees change their leaves every year, so the organic matter deposit keeps rising each year. By extension, those terraces should be rising too – if we can keep up with the labor-intensive but rewarding activity.
For big waterways and creeks, it is impossible to build many dams, otherwise there will be more flooding of the lower plains. What is needed for those big rivers is continued dredging of the mouth of those rivers to make the river beds become deeper and hence, increasing their water holding capacity and prevent or reduce flooding of lower plains, especially river delta.
Government resources should better be used in such large-scale dredging of big rivers. Government should not waste our tax money conducting those useless climate meetings and climate bureaucracies that tell people to prepare for “more drought, more warming, rising ocean” as these things will not come. We should prepare for more rains, more flood, and rising rivers.